Updated: Jan 23, 2019
One of the biggest shocks I experienced when we opened our boarding facility many years ago was the turnover of boarders. It was like we had a revolving door and I was not prepared for it at all. My husband David and I had built this huge facility and we were getting ready to live our dream. I had been a boarder for many years when I was younger and I thought I knew the boarding world when we decided to start our horse business. There was another side - The side of the barn owner and manager.
As a new barn owner and manager of my own business I was jumping on an incredible ride that would take me through many highs and lows and at times I must admit I felt like I wanted to jump off never to get back on! Boarding other peoples horses became challenging, emotional and I started to question my knowledge and self-worth about what I was doing for a living and career during those early years. It felt like everyone knew more than me and as boarders left our barn for something different I started to feel like David and I had chosen the wrong business to get into. I now understand and truly believe that every new business owner will go through this and this is where you need to dig deep to find that inner strength and keep going. Learn from your mistakes and move forward without looking back. Remember it is a business first and you need to learn how to separate business from personal. It is truly a journey you will take as you grow as a business owner.
Why boarders leave a barn
The reasons are endless on why a client will leave your stable but I have compiled a short list of why people have left my barn and other barns over the years. The reason I have put this list together is because I want you to understand that this happens to every barn owner and once you realize that it is part of running a business, it will become much easier to handle. You will learn that it is not personal and people often change and move for many reasons and a lot of them have nothing to do with your facility or the care you give. Whatever the reason - it still is sad in most cases to watch a client load up their horse and drive off but change has become part of our culture more now than ever and you will survive it.
Here is a small list of why people leave a barn for a new and different boarding stable. You need to remember that the reason one person leaves your place can be the same exact reason another person comes your place.
Clients leave because of money - Your place is too expensive and they can't afford it anymore or they are going to a more expensive place that offers more amenities
Not enough pasture turnout or too much pasture turnout and their horse has become too heavy with no options during the summer months.
The paddocks are too muddy when it rains - They don't like the base you use for footing or they come to your place because they love your footing!
I want my horse to be put out at night and in during the day
Personal issues - What happens in your clients personal life will have an effect on their horse and many times the horse gets sold or moved.
Too many rules! - Not enough rules!
The barn hours are not long enough
Not fed enough hay or good quality hay - or won't cut down on the amount of hay fed or the hay is too rich and they want a hay with more grass and less alfalfa
Barn is too cold in wintertime - or the barn is heated and too warm for what the boarder likes for their horse
Too much turnout! - or not enough turnout (believe it or not, you will have some clients who only want their horse out for an hour a day and if you don't offer that then they will look elsewhere)
Herd management - Too big of herds or poor herd management practices
The barn manager won't put my horse in with my friend's horse in the paddock!
The barn manager won't move my horse and I don't like the paddock he is in - The barn manager keeps moving my horse and I never know what paddock he is going to be in.
The barn owner is not in control - The barn owner is micromanaging and a control freak! I really don't know who is in control at this barn!
The arena is too busy with too many riders - There is no one to ride with and I am lonely
The arena is too small - The arena is too big and I don't feel safe riding in such a large arena with my horse.
Looking for a new trainer - I have outgrown the trainer or facility
I am changing riding disciplines or moving to a training barn - I want to leave the structured training barn and move to a boarding barn - There is a difference!
The trainer is leaving so I am leaving with the trainer
My friends are leaving so I am leaving also
Too much drama
The boarder wants to be in control and if they are not allowed, they will usually leave
Disagreements between boarders will usually lead to someone leaving
The barn manager won't listen to me and make the changes I want!
Not enough clinics and social atmosphere - Too many clinics and I like to be alone in a quiet barn
Too many kids - not enough kids
And the list will be endless!
As you can see the list can go on and on and this is only a few reasons why someone moves their horse from one place to another. I want you to start to understand that you can do everything right and you still will have people leave for reasons that will once in a while shock you. Many times it will have nothing to do with you and the care you give. You need to remember that the grass always looks greener on the other side and sometimes a boarder will leave to realize that the new place that they are at has its own issues and they might even be worse problems.
Today's article is not about things you need to change to keep a boarder. It is about realizing that no matter what you do, there are always going to be people who leave your stable for reasons that you can't control or refuse to change and that is okay If you keep changing things because you are trying to please everyone, you will burn yourself out and it will not only affect your business but it will affect your personal life and your family. Figure out what is important for your business and if it works for you then stick by that.
The most important part of this article
Eventually the right people will find you and love how you do things at your stable and they will stay for a very long time. Smaller stable or large facility both have an important place in the horse industry and are both very much needed. There is the perfect barn and stable for everyone and the word will spread on what type of barn you have and that is when you will start to gain clients that are happy and content with how you manage your place. Your place will be perfect for many people and that will be the same for other stables in the area. Give it time.
I believe the worse thing a barn owner can do is to keep changing everything constantly. It is normal for a boarding business to go through many changes during the first two or three years but after that things should start to settle down as you realize what you can offer and do for your clients. This is something that just takes time. There will always be changes now and then as your business grows and evolves but your boarders need to feel that the great care they came for will never be compromised. That is vital to a strong and healthy business and to your clients.
Don't be discouraged
Boarders will come and go and yes you will be blindsided a few times but you will be fine. It is part of owning a business and you will grow with each situation that comes your way. Even after all these years of running a boarding barn, I can still remember the reasons why each boarder gave their notice and I have learned so many things from each one about being professional in both good conversations and the ugly ones. I have also made a few mistakes in how I handled a few conversations and that is okay. That is when I have grown the most. You are going to grow in so many ways and you will look back one day and realize that you have come a long way!
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! I wrote my newest book to give you an in-depth look into the business of boarding horses and all that it entails. This post today is one small example of what my new book addresses. If you are boarding horses or are planning on it, please check out, "A Step By Step Guide To Starting And Running A Successful Horse Boarding Business." It is a very comprehensive book on boarding horses and covers every part of it from building your barn or stable to solid barn management. I wrote this book because I realized there is an information gap when it comes to this subject and my goal is to help others so they don't make all the mistakes I made when we first opened our boarding facility. I want you to be prepared for the crazy and wonderful new career you are going into.
Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska